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15.Initiation and Shrila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji
THE Thakura was feeling an urgent need to take initiation from some suitable guru. He relates: "I had been searching for a suitable guru for a long time, but I did not obtain one. I was very unhappy ... I was feeling very anxious, and in a dream Mahaprabhu diminished my unhappiness. In that dream I received a little hint. That very day I became happy. One or two days later Gurudeva wrote a letter to me saying, 'I will soon come and give you diksha.' After this, Vipina-vihari Gosvami visited the Thakura at Narail and gave him Vaishnava diksha.
Vipina-vihari Gosvami was a family descendant of Shrila Vamsi Vadanananda Thakura, an associate of Lord Chaitanya who was given the charge of caring for Lord Chaitanya's mother and wife after the Lord took sannyasa. He was a disciplic descendant in a line coming from Jahnava Devi, the wife of Lord Nityananda. The Thakura has written at the end of Shrimad-Bhagavatarka-marici-mala:
vipina-vihari prabhu mama prabhu-vara
"My exalted spiritual master, Vipina-vihari Prabhu, is the brilliant moon in the family of Shri Vamsi Vadanananda
At the end of the Thakura's commentary on Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita he has also written:
vipina-vihari hari, tara sakti avatari
shri-guru-goswami-rupe, dekhi more bhava-kupe,
uddharilo apana kinkara
"The eminent Vipina-vihari Prabhu, who is the manifestation of the transcendental energy of Lord Hari, Who sports in the forests of Vraja, has descended in the form of the spiritual preceptor. Seeing me in the dark well of worldly existence, he has delivered this humble servant of his."
In 1881, towards the close of the Thakura's stay in Narail, he felt inspired to go again to Vrindavan, which he had last visited in 1866. He set out on a three-month pilgrimage along with his wife, Lalita Prasad (then a small child) and two servants. After arriving he began to suffer from fever, and so he prayed to the Lord to relieve him for the duration of his stay in the Dhama, and afterwards, if He liked, He could again purify him with fever. The fever vanished. While he was in Vrindavan he associated with different sadhus. He took prasadam at the kunja (garden) of Rupa dasa Babaji, and there he heard the Dasasloki of Nimbarkacarya, the great leader of the disciplic succession coming from Lakshmi, or Shri. He also met Shrila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja for the first time. The Babaji gave many spiritual instructions to the Thakura, and he later became the instructing guru of the Thakura and an instrumental figure in the discovery of the birthsite of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Jagannatha dasa Babaji divided his time in later years between Shri Vrindavana-dhama and Shri Mayapura-dhama, six months in one and six months in the other. He was the spiritual leader of the Gaudiya Vaishnava community in Navadvipa and a perfectly realized soul. He became increasingly important to the Thakura as a source of spiritual inspiration and direction, and therefore in the listing of our line of disciplic succession as given by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, he reckons the siksha link between his father and Shrila Jagannatha dasa Babaji to be of paramount importance, relegating his diksha relationship with Vipina-vihari Gosvami to a lesser status by omission. Vipina-vihari Gosvami initially enjoyed a very sweet relationship with the Thakura, but later he is said to have been neglected by the Thakura due to a disagreement about the position of Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami. He also assisted the Thakura in his preaching work, but his spiritual advancement was not at the same level as the 'Commander-in-chief of the Vaishnavas', as Shrila Jagannatha dasa Babaji came to be called by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. [See Lives of the Vaishnava Acaryas, Volume III, for the biography of Shrila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja.]
While traveling in the Dhama to places like Radha-kunda, Govardhana, etc. the Thakura came to know of a band of dacoits (bandits) called the Kanjhars. Pandit Satkari Chattopadhyaya Siddhanta Bhushan writes: "...These powerful bandits spread all over the roads surrounding that holy place and used to work havoc on innocent pilgrims for the purpose of extorting the last farthing they possessed. We cannot possibly recount how many murders were committed by these brutes to gain their selfish ends as these accounts hardly come to light in facts and figures. It was said that these ruffians had at their back some unscrupulous persons who had the authority and power over the people. It was through his undaunted will and untiring labour for several months that the whole fact was brought to the notice of Government, and a special Commissioner appointed to crush the whole machinery set up by these Kanjhars against the innocent pilgrims. The result was marvelous and the name of the Kanjhars has for ever been extirpated from the earth." In his autobiography the Thakura humbly gives this event a very brief mention: "Going by palanquin I took darsana of Radha-kunda and Govardhana. There I experienced the spitefulness of the Kanjhars, so I made arrangements to put an end to it."